Scouting for Fixtures: May 01 – May 07

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. As well as seeking out the most entertaining games, each preview weaves the clubs into a greater football narrative. Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action. 

Guy chatting absolutely anything in a desperate attempt to keep the reader’s attention in this football-esque blog. I also do football previews, kinda… 

All times are GMT.

Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid ( Tue 02 19:45 )

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To sum up the state of affairs in a chant only described as poetic:

Chant:                                                                                                                                      Atleti decime qué se siente, haber perdido la final , te juro, que aunque pasen los años, nunca lo vamos a olvidar… Al 93′ llegó el gol, Sergio Ramos lo metió, el sueño se les murió. Como siempre terminaste segundón

English Translation:                                                                                                             Atleti tell me how it feels, to have lost the final, I swear that even with the years passing, we will never forget, in the 93rd the goal came, Sergio Ramos put it in, and your dream died, as always you ended up second.

To add to the Kafkaesque nature of Atleti in the situation, Luis Aragones famously summed up his frustration in the iconic line: If you don’t win today, I’ll stick a f**king family-sized bottle of Coke up my arse. The literal misplacement of anger is indicative of a side always second place; no more evident than in the champions league. Real Madrid is fighting on 2 fronts, killing it all-around, while Atleti can’t break the duopoly of Real-Barca in La Liga. Can’t really say much in terms of improvement of either side, but Sergio Ramos could make or break any game with the spectrum of brutal tackles to brutal last minute goals (own or otherwise). Though Los RojoBlancos have been transformed by the endearing yet terrifying character of Diego ‘El Cholo’ Simeone they’re yet to truly break the stigma of Real dominance. But what better place to do it than in Los Blancos’ signature competition.

Monaco vs Juventus ( Wed 03 19:45 )

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If Messi, Neymar and Suarez couldn’t score against Juventus in 180 minutes, what hope does anyone have against – in my opinion – the best team in the world. Statistically speaking Monaco have the best attack in the world, 142 goals in all competitions. But after their most recent 5-0 thrashing by PSG, maybe the defence needs a bit of tightening. In all honesty, it looks like Monaco will get their backside handed to them. Juventus look impenetrable at the moment, but if any team can undo that defence it will be Monaco.

Juventus vs Torino ( Sat 06 19:45 )

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Exactly 3 days – to the millisecond – after Juventus play their pivotal Champions league tie that could make or break their season, they play their biggest rivals in what could, also… make or break their season. With 4 games left in the season, Juventus are 9 points ahead of second place Napoli and are almost at the finish line, though they have played 1 more game than Napoli. Torino is chilling in 9th place, so they’ve really got no skin in the game. Apart from the fact this one of the biggest rivalries on the planet. To sum up the rivalry, I pull up a very convenient anecdote in my failed linguistic attempts:

Did you know I tried learning Italian a few years ago? Failed miserably. What little I still remember was that there are differences between the English alphabet and the Italian. One big difference is that the letter ‘J’ is not present in their alphabet. So, Juventus? What’s going on there? Turns out Juventus derives from Latin, a language only used by the authoritative church at the time (1897) made by aristocratic high-school students, meaning ‘the age of youth’. Torino was made within a division of Juve 9 years later, as people felt it did not represent the city from which it was born: ‘the team of the working class, migrant workers from the provinces or neighbouring countries, the lower middle-class and the poor’. That is the dichotomy of these Turin clubs in a nutshell.

– me about two months ago I don’t know here’s a link

Even though Torino won’t benefit from Juventus winning, their’s always that reasoning of just beating them out of spite, just so they don’t win (a feeling we all wish we didn’t have, but it’s true). The atmosphere of this kind of rivalry is rare, yet universal in rivalries across the world. These are often the games you wish you didn’t miss.

Arsenal vs Manchester United ( Sun 07 16:00 )

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A picture sums up 1000 words. This gif below sums up all of my words and more when it comes to this game, even though I flex at a weak 150 words or less per paragraph.

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The rivalry is there, both these sides HATE each other, picture the relationship between Roy Keane and Patrick Viera, but without any of the footballing ability or charisma, then multiply that by 1,000,000.

Next up, you gotta look at the table:

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This would be the end of an era if Arsenal stays in the position they are; the last time they finished outside of a European spot was 21 years ago. The content on ArsenalFanTV would be nothing like we’ve seen before. Pandemonium. If Man Utd finish 5th they will also be the but of a multitude of jokes, but 6th is something an MUFC fan keeps in the recesses of their mind. Both sides are notoriously inconsistent and have no semblance of form coming into this game. The outcome of this game will play a huge part in the final standings. You can feel the tension and the vibrations of the oncoming tsunami of memes.

Games I was too lazy to write about:

Ajax vs Lyon ( Wed 03 17:45 )

Celta Vigo vs Manchester United ( Thu 04 20:05 )

Sevilla vs Real Sociedad ( Fri 05 20:00 )

Borussia Dortmund vs Hoffenheim ( Sat 06 14:30 )

Hertha Berlin vs RasenBallsport Leipzig ( Sat 06 17:30 )

Besiktas vs Fenerbahce ( Sun 07 17:00 )

AC Milan vs Roma ( Sun 07 19:45 )

 

 

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Scouting for Fixtures: Apr 17 – Apr 23

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. As well as seeking out the most entertaining games, each preview weaves the clubs into a greater football narrative. Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action. 

All times are GMT.

There are so many good fixtures this week. It’s like Christmas, new years, Halloween, Hannukah, Diwali and Chinese new years wrapped into one week of non-stop, top quality, football. 

Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich ( Tue 18 19:54 )

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Cristiano has chromosomes bussing about his body that belongs in a Bengal tiger – Ray Hudson on Cristiano Ronaldo

As the old adage goes I suppose… and with those inspiring words by Ray Hudson – football commentator/scouser/poet/philosopher – I horrifically segway into the Ronaldo’s goal against Bayern that only strengthens the point made above.

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That was one of 3 turning points. The 2nd and 3rd, which came 11 and 14 minutes later, were Javi Martinez’s 1st and 2nd yellow card, leaving Bayern 10 men down. That lead to their first loss in the Allianz Arena (in a competitive game) since March the 3rd, of 2016. If it wasn’t for Manuel Neuer the having one of the best games in recent memory, the tie could already be over. But it finished 1-2, holding the tie up nicely into the second leg; now Bayern needs to score at least 2 goals at the Bernabeu which could leave them exposed at the back.

Barcelona vs Juventus ( Wed 19 19:45 )

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This isn’t just Barcelona’s own doing. Juventus are – in my humble opinion – the best team in the world right now, with not only individual quality, but a consistently strong tactical awareness as a group, that I can only say is replicated at a similar rate by, Bayern Munich. They hit Barca like a train. The problems at the back are a well known long term issue for the Catalonians, but that’s not what happened here. Paolo Dyzbala’s what happened here, not to take away from a rare brilliant team performance, with Buffon and Chiellini making world class blocks. Now Barca has to pay another set of referees all over again. Oh no, wait! No, sorry I meant: They have to do one of the greatest comebacks in football history, all over again, to progress to the next round.

Monaco vs Dortmund ( Wed 19 19:45 )

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I can’t talk about this fixture without addressing the extraordinary circumstances of the last leg. There are many arguments for and against holding the game just a day after the attempted bombing of the Dortmund bus, but the decision was made and now we have a vert different game. Who knows? Who knows if Dortmund would have played differently if the game was delayed? As a player, well, for any human being, the idea of an attempt to kill you surely must have an impact on your mind and psyche? Then you’re expected to go out and focus for 90 minutes against one of the best sides in Europe requires tremendous mental fortitude. But nonetheless, we had a game not out of place with the quality you’d expect, ending 2-3. A similar dilemma to Bayern Munich rests on their other German side, as BVB needs to beat Monaco by 2 goals in the next leg. After the first goal goes in, the floodgates will open.

Chelsea vs Tottenham ( Sat 22 17:15 )

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It looks like the magic of the cup is all but been extinguished with the sides left in the competition, exactly what you’d expect. Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City. Though at least now we have a more even fixture. We can’t complain too much considering the quality on display in this fixture, Conte’s side already has one hand on the Premier League trophy and only cement their place as one of the most hated clubs in England. But if anyone can stop them, it is Tottenham. They have Guardiola’s backing:

Tottenham are the best team in the league when you let them play. I enjoy watching them play.

They’re the 2 best sides in England and if previous encounters are something to go by, the cards could be flying out like confetti. Though Spurs are hopelessly behind in the league, they have one last chance to trip them up.

Real Madrid vs Barcelona ( Sun 23 19:45 )

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We’re well into the third act of a well versed, but nonetheless captivating story. And this is the climax before the final resolution. The words El Classico is synonymous with the beautiful game, attracting crowds of up to 400 million people, roughly 1/18 people in the world. Touted as one of the greatest games of football one can play, the circumstances surrounding the fixture makes this game even more important. Both sides are in the middle of a tough fixture list. Barca played Sevilla, Malaga, Juventus, Real Sociedad and then Juventus again while Real Madrid had to face Atletico Madrid, FC Bayern, Sporting Gijon and FC Bayern again in the build up to this pivotal tie. The Catalonians are 3 points behind Los Blancos who have a game in hand. After this, they’re only 5 games to decide the league winner. The only realistic way of Barca winning the league, is to win this game. The winner of La Liga rests on the outcome of this game.

It’s also worth mentioning …

Messi is 29 years old, Ronaldo, 32. This is as good as it gets for two of the greatest players of all time, a once in a generation type player. Not to say they suddenly lose all motor functions in the coming years, or there won’t be any more moments of brilliance, but this is usually near the drop off point. This may be one of the last chances to see the 2 in their prime. Enjoy this game for what it is, a competition between two of the best teams – and players – in the world.

Games you should also watch but I was too lazy to write about:

Leicester vs Atletico Madrid ( Tue 18 19:54 )

America de Cali vs Deportivo Cali ( Thu 20 01:55 )

Schalke 04 vs Ajax ( Thu 20 20:05 )

Dynamo Kyiv vs Shakhtar Donetsk ( Fri 21 18:00 )

FC Cologne vs Hoffenheim ( Fri 21 19:30 )

Sporting CP vs Benfica ( Sat 22 20:30 )

Portland Timbers vs Vancouver Whitecaps ( Sat 22 21:00 )

Celtic vs Rangers ( Sun 23 12:00 )

Arsenal vs Manchester City ( Sun 23 15:00 )

PSV Eindhoven vs Ajax ( Sun 23 15:45 )

Lyon vs Monaco ( Sun 23 20:15 )

Scouting for Fixtures: Mar 27 – Apr 02

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. As well as seeking out the most entertaining games, each preview weaves the clubs into a greater football narrative. Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action. 

All times are GMT.

Check out the Other Mentions at the bottom as this week there was an unprecedented amount of heavyweight games, enjoy.

Liverpool vs Everton ( Sat 01 12:30 )

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It may sound sadistic, but these are the sort of rivalries where you relish inflicting any pain possible on your opposition. It’s exacerbated for Everton seeing that – let’s be honest – European football is as likely for them this season, as is me getting with Cara Delevigne. If someone came up to you and described a game as:

You want to hurt each other. The tackles are more brutal, the challenges wilder. It’s meatier than other matches.

I am immediately on board. I don’t know why this phenomenon occurs, but it is synonymous with entertainment. When you wish, just horrific thoughts on your opposition players, 1. you need help and 2. you are witnessing a derby worth watching. For a neutral, if there is a favourable turn of events, it’s like watching everyone morph into Connor McGregor for a few minutes. All it takes is one ‘liberal’ challenge and the fuse has been set. Everton has more or less reached the ceiling in terms of their position. Breaking through the wall of Chelsea, Man City, Tottenham, Liverpool, Man Utd and Arsenal is too big a challenge this season. Liverpool is hanging on to that last Champions league spot for dear life. Man Utd and Arsenal within a stone’s throw away, plus they have 2 games in hand on Liverpool. If Everton contributed to Liverpool’s downfall from European football, it would be even more comical considering the last time Everton won a Merseyside derby was 7 years ago.

Schalke 04 vs Borussia Dortmund ( Sat 01 14:30 )

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The unexpected enormity of this fixture is something to behold. The picture above compresses tens of thousands of simultaneous emotions onto a few pixels. In actuality, the 22 men are playing for the Revierderby. For the layman, you’d probably heard of the Revierderby in the fringes of Bundesliga talk, or not at all. Under the radar in recent years due to a recent lack of silverware and big name players (until recently), but this is as big as it gets in Germany. It’s a hallmark trait of these derbies, the atmosphere is different, you can feel it through the TV or computer screen. Those who are more up to date with German football know that both these clubs are flopping. Maybe harsh considering Dortmund is only in 3rd place, but many pinned hopes on BVB leading the charge on pulling FC Bayern down of their throne. Instead, Dortmund is fighting it out with rising clubs like RB Leipzig, Hertha Berlin for champions league. Those rising clubs have pushed Schalke down to 9th, where from what I can see are twiddling their thumbs till next season arrives. But all the built up frustration and form is washed away with the arrival of this derby.

Monaco vs Paris Saint-Germain ( Sat 01 20:00 )

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Blessed be the name of the lord, blessed be your name, for God has given the holy grail of fixture lists this week – Revelations 10:66

I didn’t fact check that* but I’m pretty sure that was in Revelations. Makes sense to, if you look at the Expendables-esque lineup ahead. This one included. To steal another weighty proverb:

Onions have layers – Shrek

Not only do we have Monaco, who has the strike force equivalent to a roided up SEAL team; they face the current champions of France, PSG. Not only that, but they face each other in a Coupe de la Ligue fixture. Not only that. It’s the final. Monaco is showing PSG how it is done so far. None of this 6-1 loss to Barcelona crap and cry about it after (though they may have a point). Domestically, Monaco has the upper hand, 8 games left and holding the top spot. It’s impossible to do what PSG have done and maintained it. Now with Europe out the question and Monaco in line to win Ligue 1, this is their most likely and immediate chance of winning silverware this season.

*I’m not fake news please no hate.

Benfica vs FC Porto ( Sat 01 20:30 )

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With 10 games left, I can say with confidence that one of these 2 teams will win Liga NOS. As things stand, Benfica is 1st with 64 points, Porto is 1 place and 1 point behind them. The next closest are Sporting CP who are 9 points behind. And the name of this game: O Clássico. With a name like that you come to expect a certain level of football that is a given. With a combined 9 international titles between them, the weight is justified. WWWWWWD. WWWWWWD. One of those is the form of Porto, the other is the form of Benfica. Geographically is the only distinct difference between these 2. Clearly, on paper, there is very difficult to distinguish who is the better side. Not to resort to the wine cliche, so I’ll opt for the less used cheese analogy. Like a finely aged cheese (E.g. Monterey Jack), the derby has had over 100 years to affinage. the game itself predates the league it currently resides in by 22 years. That’s 1 Wisconsin cheddar older than Liga Nos. Not to undercut (please don’t click off) the tension with all this cheese talk, it really is one of the biggest derbies in the world, we expect grate things (please, please don’t click off).

Arsenal vs Manchester City ( Sun 02 16:00 )

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For better or worse – depending on your perspective – Arsenal is making bigger strides in the meme community than in the football community. The most recent loss to West Brom only adds more wood to a bonfire set alight months ago. WLLWLL. The Gunners form is horrific, and the gut instinct is change. But who? There are some shouts of Allegri but at this point, there is no way of distinguishing fact from fiction. You don’t want to end up with the next David Moyes, followed by Louis ‘philosophy’ Van Gaal*. Look at Man City. They knew Pep Guardiola was coming from the point Mancini left 4 years ago. While both currently reside in the tornado that formed between 2nd and 7th place, Man City unquestionably hold the upper hand. There is some hope for the home side, as the last 2 encounters in Emirates, Arsenal won both against Man City. That is the only positive thing I could find.

*I miss this man so much.

Games I would’ve written about but was too lazy:

France vs Spain ( Tue 28 20:00 )

Hertha Berlin vs Hoffenheim ( Fri 31 19:30 )

Ajax vs Feyenoord ( Sun 02 13:30 )

Napoli vs Juventus ( Sun 02 19:45 )

 

Scouting for Fixtures: Mar 06 – Mar 12

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. As well as seeking out the most entertaining games, each preview weaves the clubs into a greater football narrative. Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action. 

All times are GMT.

Napoli vs Real Madrid ( Tue 07 19:45 )

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The last leg left us re-aligning our jaws after they collectively dropped at the 53′ mark. Yes, the game ended 3-1 in favour of Los Blancos. That 1 away goal is what Napoli is holding onto coming into the 2nd leg. In order to progress to the next round of the competition, the Naples have to either win 2-0 or if Los Blancos score, by a 3 goal deficit. If we go further, I wouldn’t bet my house on the idea of Naples keeping a clean sheet. So chances are, it’s going to play out where once Real Madrid score, it’s going to be an all-out attack. The last time we saw that we witnessed one of the best Champions League games ever. If these two could tap into that, we could witness another game akin to the 8 goal thriller we saw just 2 weeks ago.

Genoa vs Sampdoria ( Sat 11 19:45 )

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The blood runs just a bit hotter and the ball is booted with more weight behind it*, literally and figuratively. I may be romanticising the idea of Italian passion when it comes to football, I mean their country is the shape of an actual boot. But, in all the time I’ve been writing on this blog, one thing has been made apparent. The Italians have set the benchmark when it comes to a proper derby. And this is the oldest of them all. Named after the landmark lighthouse, Derby Della Lanterna is not the game for you if you’re more accustomed to intricate passing or superstars. Instead, it is a breath of fresh air, as put eloquently by TheseFootballTimes:

While other games are characterised by violence and animosity, the Derby della Lanterna is all about divided families fighting it out for 90 minutes in the hope that their beloved side will give them something to shout about. It’s what a rivalry should be in football: passionate, loyal and largely friendly.

*Is that a fat joke? No.

Real Sociedad vs Athletic Club ( Sun 12 11:00 )

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A derby by its very nature poses the ideal conditions for aggression and violence. The last paragraph was dedicated to a derby – one of the few – exempt from that stigma. This basque derby so happens to be exempt from that stigma as well. It’s easy to overlook this derby as it falls under the huge shadow of the El Clasico, but these two sides have their own story worth reading. Sociedad is the stronger side on paper, sitting higher on the table and scoring more goals. In fact, Bilbao’s form is the definition of inconsistent: LWLWLW. What makes these 2 sides special is the unwavering approach to every game. The intensity and fast paced style are trademarked by these 2.

Games I wanted to talk about but was too lazy:

Arsenal vs Bayern Munich ( Tue 07 19:45 )

Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain ( Wed 08 19:45 )

Bayern Munich vs Eintracht Frankfurt ( Sat 11 14:30 )

Hertha Berlin vs Borussia Dortmund ( Sat 11 14:30 )

Celtic vs Rangers ( Sun 12 12:00 )

Scouting for Fixtures: Feb 27 – Mar 05

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. As well as seeking out the most entertaining games, each preview weaves the clubs into a greater football narrative. Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action. 

All times are GMT.

Coppa Italia Semi-Finals:

The Italians do not mess about when it comes to their cup football. In England, you’ve got Lincoln City slapping teams around; in Germany, third division side Sportfreunde Lotte are in the quarter-finals, this would definitely not fly in the Coppa Italia. Napoli, Roma, Juventus, Lazio. Not only the last 4 left in Coppa Italia but ranked 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th in goals scored.

Juventus vs Napoli ( Tue 28 19:45 )

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I don’t know what more to say than, it’s Juventus and Napoli. The weight of those names alone is enough to persuade me, but when you put them against each other, you have a real show. People use the term star-studded when describing top teams, but collectively, these two could fill out a Michael Jackson military jacket. Some football teams play the boring game or the rapid game or even flat out take-down bulldog. These two are the few who play in a way you would be justified in calling it the beautiful game. In terms of entertainment value, there are only a handful of games and circumstances that could outdo this game. Having said that, the other semi-final may be one of the select few that fall into that category.

Lazio vs Roma ( Wed 01 19:45 )

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The cherry on top of the tiramisù is that to accompany this heated semi-finals is that of this rivalry. A rivalry spanning 89 years; It has it’s moments, from the good, the bad, to the Mussolini. The famous line ‘you think that’s air your breathing’ from the Matrix was actually inspired by the time the Wachowski’s sat in on a Rome derby. In actuality, it’s part red smoke, part Bovril and part god knows what. To accompany the incandescent red and blue flames are a 50/50 split of Roma and Lazio fans. Unusual you would think, as you wouldn’t expect 50% of tickets for away fans. In actual fact, 0% of tickets go to away fans, as both Roman sides have to share a stadium. From personal experience, I’ve found sharing an Xbox with my brother has led to fights well into the hundreds by now. Take that scenario, add a tonne of beer, and 72,689 fans who can actually throw a proper punch. For a player, that atmosphere is the equivalent of shooting a bucket of adrenaline into your blood stream. Plus, it’s not going to just be a shin-kicking contest out there, as Roma and Lazio have the quality to put on a real show, with 54 and 44 goals scored in Serie A respectively. There is further motivation for the 2 sides – not that they need it – as Lazio hasn’t won this tournament in 5 years, for Roma that number doubles to 10 years.

Liverpool vs Arsenal ( Sat 04 17:30 )

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I don’t know, you don’t know, Gary Neville might think he knows, but he doesn’t know; hell, Paul the Octopus is shrugging with all 8 of his shoulders or whatever the equivalent is because they don’t have bones. Point being, if you want to bet on the score line, don’t. It encompasses the Premier League as a whole right now, just look at the form of the top 5 from England with the top 5 from Italy:

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One shows a neatly organised pile of W’s, with the top sides doing what they do, win. The other side is just a mess. Arsenal lost to Watford and drew to Bournemouth, but Liverpool is even more inexplicable. They drew with Sunderland and Man Utd, lost to Swansea but drew with Chelsea; lost to Hull then beat Tottenham who has the best defensive record in the league. But hey, at least they know how to do one thing. That’s taking the ball and putting it in the back of the net. Being top goalscorers of a league is one thing, but being top goalscorers of the Premier League means you really know what you’re doing (attacking wise only). Both sides share the title of being top goal scorers with 54 each, and these games have a knack of finishing with a high scoreline. Apart from an anomalous 0-0 finish, the rest have been Man-City-versus-Monaco-esque. 3-4, 3-3, 4-1, 2-2, 2-1. Chelsea might already have etched their name on the trophy, but right now only 4 points separate 2nd place Manchester City from 6th place Manchester United.

These are the games I would’ve also written about if I wasn’t so lazy:

Galatasaray vs Besiktas ( Mon 27 17:00 )

Kaizer Chiefs vs Orlando Pirates ( Sat 04 13:30 )

Roma vs Napoli ( Sat 04 14:00 )

LA Galaxy vs FC Dallas ( Sat 04 21:00 )

Scouting for Fixtures: Feb 13- Feb 19

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. As well as seeking out the most entertaining games, each preview weaves the clubs into a greater football narrative. Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action. 

All times are GMT.

Paris Saint-Germain vs Barcelona ( Tue 14 19:45 )

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One would greet you with a bonjour while the other prefers a holla. Apart from that, they are more or less identical. Like how identical twins are made up of different individual molecules,  but they have the exact outward appearance. The individual molecules, in this case, is each player. The outward appearance is (almost) everything else. The fact they play the same formation (4-3-3) is only the beginning*. Both sides rarely give up possession with Barca: 61.7% and PSG: 60.9%, the highest % in their respective leagues; an extremely high pass accuracy go hand in hand (Barca: 86.3% and PSG: 88.7%). Both sides can slice a team in half, with a relatively high 29% of attacks coming from the middle for both sides. Defensive wise, the differences are negligible: 0.6% difference in tackles per game, 1.5% in interceptions and 0.2% in fouls per game. Position wise in their leagues, both are 2nd. EVEN THE FORM. Both sides are identical (all competitions) in their last 8 matches: WWWWWDWW. But, after painstaking research, I’ve finally found one difference. Barcelona has a much higher % of the time in the opposition third (32%) than PSG (26%), it’s only 6% but please let me have this. The ability to sustain pressure could be a factor in how lopsided the results have been, with PSG only winning 1 of the last 6 encounters. So it’s on Cavani, Draxler and Moura to keep up with MSN.

*You know when you play rock-paper-scissors against someone and every time you both give the same item? Every. Single. Time. That’s how it felt writing this paragraph.

Bayern Munich vs Arsenal ( Wed 15 19:45 )

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Do you think God watches ArsenalfanTV*? For the first time in 6 years, Arsenal finally finishes 1st in their group. They don’t have to face FC Bayern, again. Because you can’t get drawn with a team who finishes the same place as you. And, surely Bayern finished 1st? For the first time in 8 years, FC Bayern finishes 2nd. Be it Murphy’s law or divine intervention, Arsenal faces FC Bayern for the 4th time in 5 seasons. Arsenal has never progressed to the quarter-finals when drawn with Bayern Munich in the round of 16. It goes without saying that the German champions are heavy favourites, as they won the tournament 5 times, 5 more than Arsenal did. The English side just cannot compete at the highest level. Physically and technically, the premier league takes a Darwinian approach, making sure only the fittest can survive. But mentally is where Arsenal falter almost consistently. Good sides can beat an inferior opposition, but great sides have the mental capacity or winning mentality’ which the Germans have in abundance. Arsenal has only lost 3 of their 7 games played against the top 6, but Bayern has only lost 3 all season. The Arsenal fan base is like a pressure cooker with the lid stuck; if Wenger doesn’t fix it soon, it’s only a matter of time before it explodes. Getting knocked out the champions league only adds heat to the flame underneath the pot.

*For those unacquainted with this gem of a youtube channel, it started off well intentioned, ‘It was set up by Arsenal Fans for Arsenal Fans.’ in their own words. For Arsenal fans, it’s catharsis to watch a fellow fan blow their frustration or debate opinions. For everyone else, ‘It’s like watching an Internet comment section come to life’ as put by Paul Tamburro on Crave.

Real Madrid vs Napoli ( Wed 15 19:45 )

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This game encapsulates why I started this blog (just over a year ago now), to a tee. Read the description: ‘Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action.’ One hundred and sixty-one.  Since the start of this season, collectively, both sides have a combined total of 161 goals in all competitions. If you’re going to watch any match this week – or even this year for that matter – this one would be a worthwhile candidate. And how lucky are we; the reverse fixture will be played in 2 weeks. No, it’s not a cup final or a derby, but it’s hard to look past that mountain of goals. Hats off to Napoli manager Sarri, as many were sceptical of Napoli remaining an attacking powerhouse after their 36-time goalscorer Higuain left for Juventus. In fact, the Azzurri have scored more goals this season (53) relative to this time last season (53). Then there’s the matter of Real Madrid. The guys who are top of their league with 51 goals in 19 games. Los Blancos look the favourites to progress to the next round, winning 11 Champions league trophies, why not a 12th? Los Blancos have only won 50% of their matches since the New Year, as well as ending their 40 matches unbeaten run since the start of the season. Ending that unbeaten run and losing back to back may not seem like much, but consider that the last time Real Madrid lost was February. February 2016 that is, 12 months ago. Well, the reason why seems pretty obvious to me. Those familiar to zodiacs like me, know full well that 2017 marks the year of the Rooster. Everyone knows that the year of the Rooster’s unlucky colour is white. What is Real Madrid classic home kit colour? White. Need I say more? Something has also happened to the away side, as Napoli games act as a magnet for red cards. There have been more red cards in 2017 for games involving Napoli already (6 red cards in 7 games) than there was since the start of the season in 2016 (5 red cards in 24 matches). After hyping up this game so much, fingers crossed I haven’t just jinxed it.

Scouting for Fixtures: Jan 30 – Feb 05

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. As well as seeking out the most entertaining games, each preview weaves the clubs into a greater football narrative. Each article is a selection of hand picked upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action. 

All times are GMT.

Liverpool vs Chelsea ( Tue 31 20:00 )

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If you’re a Chelsea fan you must be on cloud 9 considering you were the biggest laughing stock of last season. The rest of us are worried. We all know full well that a few more points to Chelsea’s considerable lead mark the beginning of the end of Arsenal’s, Tottenham’s, Liverpool’s, Manchester City’s and – let’s be inclusive – even Manchester United’s title race. If I had to pick the team most likely to beat Chelsea, it would be Liverpool. Why? Mainly because:

1. They are the only side to beat Chelsea at Stanford Bridge so far

2. Liverpool has the best record of playing the top 6 sides

3. Chelsea have yet to beat Liverpool since Jurgen Klopp became Liverpool manager

But looking at their seasons overall, Liverpool have been slipping (no pun intended*) where Chelsea remain on firm footing. Now I attempt to explore what is believed to be the most elusive aspect of a footballer… the brain. Instead of the analytical, logical left brain, the focus is on the emotion-centred right brain. Now I make a clear distinction between self-help faff and science when I say positivity is a precursor to success. Costa may have had his falling out but overall it’s smiles all round at Stanford Bridge, outlined by Thibaut Courtois recently stating I have never felt so good since I arrived in Chelsea’,’There’s a good atmosphere in the group. Lots of jokes and banter but we work hard and enjoy it.’ On top of that Antonio Conte ‘spent the evening getting to know the relatives of his players.’ How can that not put a smile on your face if you’re a Chelsea player? Looking to the home side, it wouldn’t surprise me if Klopp injected dopamine in his bloodstream by the buckets, but his side is struggling to find the same mentality.The Guardian reported Klopp stating ‘The feeling around the club is not quite as positive as it was, and it’s our job to bring that positivity back.’ Are these tenuous links? Of course, they are, as I am not a psychologist and this more is an obscure type of analysis not common in the mainstream, not to mention I don’t know the inner workings of these 2 clubs. But when you have 2 sides as good as Liverpool and Chelsea, it is the difference in mentality that can determine the share of the points.

*I lied.

Chelsea vs Arsenal ( Sat 04 12:30 )

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In an otherwise simple Super-Sunday match between 2 premier league heavyweights has been overcomplicated by a fixture list. The task of planning a year of football is taken for granted; they have to juggle the Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup in conjunction with the Champions League, Europa League and any international tournament that year.‘They think names go into a hat and it’s almost like a draw.’ says, the officer of football league fixtures Paul Snellgrove, but that’s what it feels like for Arsenal. The Gunners played Southampton on the 28th of January, 3 days later they face Watford in the league and 4 days later they travel to Stanford Bridge. You could say that it evens out to an extent, as Chelsea would have played Liverpool only 4 days prior to this game. Hopefully, the packed fixture list is not going to infringe on the quality of football we expect from these two sides. As for any scenarios of consequence, there are too many variables to give you anything with substance. It depends on Chelsea’s result against Liverpool and if Arsenal can keep winning games that on paper they should be. For a neutral, if Arsenal could hold back Chelsea from collecting 3 more points, may keep the competition for the Premier League title alive, barely. But I, nor anyone, can call with any certainty whether that will happen because Arsenal remains – to their advantage, or to their detriment  – unpredictable.

Monaco vs Nice ( Sat 04 16:00 )

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We have only just crossed the halfway point of the Ligue 1 season, but at 21 games in, it looks like these two are the frontrunners (along with PSG) for the French title. For Nice especially, this is a long time coming. The last time they won a Ligue 1 title was all the way back in 1959. The idea of Nice breaking does not look promising, even though they are 2nd. 3 game weeks ago Nice was 1st, 4 points ahead of Monaco. Now, Nice have been superseded by Monaco who edges them by 2 points. While the away side maintain their status of being the best defence in the league (conceded 14 goals all season), they have only won 1 of their last 6 games in all competitions. This is in part, due to their huge stack of injuries, 11 out in total. You also have to account that Nice play a 3 back defence, with wingbacks who need to be at their physical prime to carry out their defensive and offensive responsibilities. To exacerbate issues, they play Monaco, who look like they can score goals at will. The diametrically opposing approaches of these 2 clubs stand out most in this stat: Monaco spends the most time of any team in the league in their opposition third (32%) and the least amount of time in their own third (24%). Nice spend the most amount of time of any team in the league, in their own third ( 31%) and the least amount of time in the opposition third (19%). While Monaco’s stat looks more productive than Nice, it really isn’t. Both teams are neck and neck, and on Saturday we will see the best French attack against the best French defence.

Other Mentions: 

Inter Milan vs Lazio ( Tue 31 19:45 )

Marseille vs Lyon ( Tue 31 20:05 )

Melbourne Victory vs Melbourne City FC ( Sat 04 08:50 )

Bayern Munich vs Schalke 04 ( Sat 04 14:30 )

Barcelona vs Athletic Club ( Sat 04 15:15 )

Borussia Dortmund vs RasenBallsport Leipzig ( Sat 04 17:30 )

FC Porto vs Sporting Club Portugal ( Sat 04 20:30 )

Juventus vs Inter Milan ( Sun 05 19:45 )

Feel like I missed out any matches or want to give any feedback? Comment Below!


Sources:

https://hbr.org/2012/01/positive-intelligence

http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/diego-costa-left-out-of-chelsea-squad-to-face-leicester-city-after-furious-row-with-antonio-conte-a7526816.html

http://www.skysports.com/football/news/11668/10740724/thibaut-courtois-loving-life-at-chelsea-and-not-interested-in-move-to-china

http://www.express.co.uk/sport/football/747781/Chelsea-Antonio-Conte-Christmas-Premier-League

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/jan/23/jurgen-klopp-liverpool-southampton-efl-cup

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/jun/15/fixtures-premier-league-football-league-compiled

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OGC_Nice#Honours

http://outsideoftheboot.com/2016/11/22/ogc-nice-a-revolution-in-ligue-1/

Scouting for Fixtures: Dec 26 – Jan 01

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. They come out every Sunday and hand picks upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action.

All times are GMT.

El Zamalek vs Al Ahly ( Thu 29 17:00 )

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Alongside spending 90 minutes in the yellow wall of Westfalenstadion, witnessing an Old Firm, Barca-Real and Boca-River, El Zamalek vs Al Ahly is the most elusive game on my football bucket list. It’s not the type of fixture you’d find on SkySports/BT Sports so your best chance of finding the live game is a live stream if you’re not in Egypt, where there is an estimated 50 million domestic TV audience. The Cairo derby has a backstory interwoven with politics, socio-economic changes, religion; the reoccurring theme being violence. You wouldn’t be surprised if it was actually all written up by Quentin Tarintino. Football offers people the precious gift of escapism. If you search Egypt on The New York Times website you will find the most recent stories include: ‘How Egyptian Democracy really works: President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has figured out how to maintain a simulacrum of democratic process. For whatever that’s worth.’ and ‘Cathedral Bombing in Cairo leaves Egypt alarmed, and its president scrambling’ Couple the atmosphere created through escapism of those circumstances, with the trend that often what we see off-field is reflected on-field. If that is what is happening off the pitch, imagine the football itself. I dream of watching this game live but until then I will have to continue painstakingly searching through dodgy links to find a good quality live stream. To drive home the significance of this game, here is Scotland’s World Cup referee and Ahly-Zamalek veteran Hugh Dallas: ‘I’ve done 14 or 15 Old Firm matches and even they don’t come close to this. I genuinely believe that this is as big as it gets…’ 

Rangers vs Celtic ( Sat 31 12:15 )

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I know I just slated the Old Firm but it is, in fact, one of the most famous football fixtures in the world. But why? I doubt it’s because it’s the pinnacle of Scottish football (which it is), as my extensive research suggests otherwise:

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So why does a football derby in Glasgow be so far-reaching that it makes headlines in The Economist, The New York Times and Vice; the last news outlet making a 45-minute documentary dedicated to the Old Firm called: Football’s Most Dangerous Rivalry. The title gives it away in part, as there have been a fair few fights and even turning into riots during the game. I’ve watched enough Kevin Bridges and Frankie Boyle’s stand-up to assume all Scotsman have a dour, bleak outlook on life with an irritable disposition*. But there’s more than that to illicit this mass response. The tension between Celtic and Rangers has roots deep into polarising political ideologies and religion. If you have a basic understanding of Geography, you too realise that Celtic is of Irish heritage, formed by Irish immigrants at the time and therefore have a majority Catholic supporters. Without turning into a full essay on the Irish revolution, there is a deep hate between Rangers and Celtic fans involving the IRA and division between Catholicism and Protestantism. Now I hate to quote myself but, ‘often what we see off-field is reflected on-field’. Not literally (though Rangers did only sign their first Catholic player in 1989), but the passion, regardless of the reason, translates without losing any of its original meaning. The games are end-to-end in a very literal way, with the last match ending 0-1 but had a shot on goal every 2.1 minutes (a scathing stat on the state of Scottish football if there was any). That 0-1 was an outlier in another wise goal-fest of a game, averaging 3.5 goals per game in the last 6. If you’ve got no plans on Christmas eve, follow this fixture with another great game south of the border 3 and a half hours later.

*On the off chance any Scots think I’m being serious, let me clarify I’m not before I get barraged with four-letter words.

Liverpool vs Manchester City ( Sat 31 17:30 )

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If you walk into a pub in England, chances are you’ll find a TV in the corner with Soccer Saturday playing. It’s a pretty big deal here. For those unfamiliar, it could be the father of all reaction videos, like the ones you find on youtube but better. For those who can’t keep up with my very specific references, here’s a link to catch you up to speed. Caught up? Good. So when Liverpool legend and Soccer Saturday presenter Phil Thompson said ‘The best team has been Liverpool and I think we’ve got a better chance than most’ and today Michael Owen agrees ‘I’m going to go for Liverpool to win the league.’ it goes without saying the trolls will come out the woodworks. If they want to be champions these are the crucial games that Liverpool will have to win. The best attack in the league, 41 goals in 17 matches. As well as that, Liverpool is undefeated in 15 at home while scoring some amazing goals resembling prime Dortmund back in the day. So Guardiola walks into Anfield under these circumstances. Just last week Manchester City held Arsenal to 1 goal and 1 shot on target over 90 minutes. Winning at Anfield would be a turnaround for Manchester City after their back to back losses against direct rivals Chelsea, followed by Leicester. It so happens Liverpool have more immediate issues to take care of. Forty-eight hours is an interesting idea but less than 48 hours I cannot believe.’ What Klopp is referring to is the time between this game and his team’s next game against Sunderland. What he left out was that they would also play a match 3 days prior to this against Stoke with both Coutinho and Matip injured. Man City also have Aguero and Fernandinho out, but both teams still have the firepower to put on a show this new years eve.

Other Mentions:

Chelsea vs Bournemouth ( Mon 26 15:00 )

Newcastle United vs Sheffield Wednesday ( Mon 26 19:45 )

Southampton vs Tottenham ( Wed 28 19:45 )

Leicester vs West Ham ( Sat 31 15:00 )

Arsenal vs Crystal Palace ( Sun 01 16:00 )

Feel like I missed out any matches or want to give any feedback? Comment Below!

Scouting For Fixtures: Nov 14 – Nov 20

Scouting for fixtures is a weekly blog for people who love the beautiful game. They come out every Sunday and hand picks upcoming matches worldwide that week, which looks set for 90 minutes of non-stop action.

All times are GMT.

Manchester United vs Arsenal ( Sat 19 12:30 )

There are a lot of reasons Man Utd hates Arsenal and Arsenal hates Man Utd. A lot. The interpersonal rivalries only fan the well-lit flames. Roy Keane and Patrick Viera the most obvious, as they would often kick off before kick off (hilarious!) such as when Keane comes to Garry Neville’s rescue after being threatened by Patrick Viera*. Ruud Van Nistelrooy was Arsenal’s punching bag for much of his tenure and the newest rivalry (sort of), Arsene Wenger vs Jose Mourinho. This season, Arsenal are playing on a level above Manchester United, but seeds of doubt still grow in the minds of Arsenal fans whenever they see this:

 

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Courtesy of Sky Sports, only competitive games listed.

 

Looking at the 11 games played by Manchester United, 6 of them have been against a current top 10 side. If you isolate that form, it is 3 losses, 2 draws and 1 win; that one win was against 10th place Southampton in week 2. Even more distressing for an MUFC fan is that Jose is supposed to have an excellent record when facing big clubs. With Zlatan receiving his disciplinary ban, this is Wenger’s chance to finally take those three points.

*Watch Gary Neville’s masterclass in establishing dominance, as he squeezes Viera’s hand  and dishes out a steely glare during the pre-game handshake.

Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid ( Sat 19 19:45 )

Real Madrid continues their march to the trophy as they top the table after 11 games, thwarting their oppositions 1-6, 2-1, 1-4 and 3-0 without breaking stride. Their trademark all out attack still remains plan A, with the most shots (20.3) and shots on target (7.7) per game, plus 31 goals already. Diego Simeone isn’t having as easy a time as Zidane, with their trademark defending coming into question as they’ve been turning what would have been wins into draws, what would have been draws into losses. By their own insanely high standards, Atleti is slipping. Conceding 8 at this stage is much higher than usual at this point, considering they only conceded 18 last season. If they continue at this rate they would concede 28 goals by the end of this season, which would have still made them the best defensive side in La Liga last season, second best is Barcelona conceding 29 goals. Real’s defence could also be called into question as the injuries keep piling up: Ramos, Kroos, Pepe, Casemeiro, Mariano, Casilla, Modric (recovering) and Benzema. To make things even worse for the home side, Atleti’s one strong point this season has been their improvement in attack, netting 25 times so far, 9 better that this time last season. This could be Simeone’s chance to break Real Madrid’s unbeaten run.

Borrusia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich ( Sat 19 17:30 )

The Signal Iduna Park is a sight to behold usually, a yellow sea of endless noise will be dead silent before kick-off to pay respects to Dortmund legend, Alfred Schmidt who recently passed away. There is some uncertainty of what type of game we’ll get this time, as both teams have very similar styles of play. Both favour heavy possession (Bayern: 64.7% Dortmund: 63.6%) have high pass accuracy (Bayern: 87.2% Dortmund: 85.6%) and smash the goals in with Bayern netting 24, Dortmund 25. The only significant differences are that Dortmund favours direct play with 33% of play coming through the middle (the most in the league) while Bayern is reliant on the counter attack, 4 of their goals as a result (again, the most in the league). Potentially Marco Reus may play, though he’s expected to recover by the 19th, match fitness is still in question. The same applies to Bayern Munich players Manuel Neuer, Martines and Arturo Vidal, while Kingsley Coman is out till early January.